Students Virtually Travel Washington State with Green Screen and Video Production

In 7th Grade Washington State History, students have traditionally studied each of the major regions of the state and presented them to their peers. This year, WA State History teachers Jay McMillan and Karen Natorp-Anderson wanted a way for students to be able to engage more with the different regions of the state, especially those which they may not have ever visited before. Using iPads as video production studios and public-domain images as primary sources, they had students create videos using a production technique known as “green screen” to create videos reporting virtually from around the state on the factors and unique characteristics of each region that make Washington a vibrant and diverse state.

McMillan noted over the past few years that students who worked on the Puget Sound region, where U Prep students live, had a large advantage in describing their regions over other groups, and wondered if there were a way for students to be able to present all regions of the state in an engaging and thorough way. Students were divided into small groups and given a region of the state. Each group had to research the unique factors of their region, including geographic and economic elements, tourism, and push and pull factors influencing migration and human population. Once research was done, students wrote scripts for a promotional video extolling the virtues of their region. As part of the script process, students also used a video-production technique called storyboarding to brainstorm the kinds of images that would support their narration.

Once storyboards were complete, students researched for appropriate-use photographs from a variety of sources, including Creative Commons-licensed and public-domain photographs and online databases. They also assembled and annotated images and maps using iPad apps such as Skitch (for annotating maps), Explain Everything (for recording drawing and digital ink) and Keynote (presenting relevant data). They used a Green Screen app to film themselves talking in front of the images that they had collected, and assembled their final movies in iMovie. During the filming process, students demonstrated a high degree of creativity in improvising prompters and easels from which to read, and creating additional green screens with construction paper.

Students improvise cue cards during Green Screen filming.
Students improvise cue cards during Green Screen filming.


After looking at the final projects, Natorp Anderson observed that one of the most valuable aspects of the project was how many opportunities students had for feedback and revision of their work as they moved from brainstorming and early scripting, to storyboarding, to assembling and filming their shots. In addition, McMillan pointed out that while there was a wide range in the quality of the videos, primarily as students experimented with how to film in noisy environments, he felt like the key to this project was in watching the students’ process as they planned their individual tasks, responsibilities and productions, and then assembled them into a group product. Finally, while students had used most of the apps in this project before one-at-a-time, they were able to use combinations of apps as a way to merge resources and original content into a complete production. Through research and their use of primary sources and images, students were able to immerse themselves in the wide range of human geography in Washington State, without having to leave campus.

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